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Topic: [ncsm-members] Educators, Parents Hold Mixed Views on Testing
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Educators, Parents Hold Mixed Views on Testing
Posted: Feb 28, 2012 3:13 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, February 8, 2012, Volume 31, Issue 2. See
Educators, Parents Hold Mixed Views on Testing

By Catherine Gewertz

Parents, teachers, and district administrators consider formative and
interim tests far more valuable than summative assessments, according
to a survey released Wednesday. [see ]

And if state test results arrive more than a month after they were
given, parents don't find them very valuable, the survey found.

The study was intended to shed light on those three groups' views of
tests as key assessment policy is being shaped at the state and
national levels. Federal lawmakers are considering legislation to
replace the No Child Left Behind Act, which launched a new era of
testing and accountability a decade ago. Many state policymakers are
implementing teacher-evaluation systems based in part on students'
test scores. And two groups of states are using federal Race to the
Top dollars to design new tests for common academic standards.

"What the data show is that parents, teachers, and administrators
think that summative tests don't give them the information they
consider most valuable, and yet the pendulum has swung so far in that
direction that there is a risk to other kinds of tests that actually
help children learn," said Matt Chapman, the president and chief
executive officer of Northwest Evaluation Association, the Portland,
Ore.-based nonprofit research and test-development organization that
commissioned the study. "It's an incredibly important time to have
that conversation." [see ]

The survey, conducted by Grunwald Associates of Bethesda, Md., was
given online to a nationally representative sample of about 1,000
K-12 teachers, 1,000 parents of K-12 students, and 200 school
district administrators. It probed attitudes about summative tests,
which measure what students have learned at the end of the year;
interim tests, the periodic tests that measure learning over a
shorter time frame; and formative tests, a range of ways of gauging
how well students are learning material as it is being taught.

When parents were asked which types of tests were "extremely" or
"very" important to them, 85 percent chose formative assessments, 67
percent cited interim tests, and 44 percent chose summative tests.

Researchers asked parents how helpful the different types of tests
are for various purposes. On every one of 12 purposes offered, they
assigned significantly more value to formative/interim tests than
they did to summative tests. Seven in 10 said formative/interim tests
were helpful to them in guiding their child's homework, for instance,
while 47 percent said the same of summative tests.

Educator Feedback

Teachers and district administrators, too, gave formative and interim
tests higher marks for value than summative assessments.

Nine in 10 administrators said formative or interim tests are very
valuable for differentiating instruction and improving learning.
Fewer than three in 10 answered similarly for summative tests.

Teachers' feedback was less enthusiastic than that of administrators
about the value of formative and interim tests, but still strongly
favored them over summative assessments. About two-thirds of teachers
consider formative or interim tests very valuable for differentiating
instruction, and for determining whether students have a deep
understanding of content and whether they should move to the next
grade. Three in 10 or fewer ranked summative tests as similarly

Parents, teachers, and administrators said tests are important to
monitor student progress, but they seek broader ways of doing so.
More than eight in 10 said tests ought to measure critical thinking
and problem-solving. Somewhat smaller-though still
substantial-proportions said tests should measure communication,
creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Likewise, there was broad support among all three groups for
assessing subjects other than mathematics and English/language arts,
which are the two subjects states are required to report under No
Child Left Behind. More than 80 percent of each group favors
measuring students' performance in science, and 70 percent or more
favors doing so in history, geography, and government and civics.
Testing in arts, world languages, and economics also drew support
from majorities, or large minorities, of all three groups.

But parents, teachers, and administrators expressed concern about how
much time and money are spent on testing. Such concerns were far more
pronounced among educators, however, than among parents.

Forty-three percent of parents and 73 percent of educators said too
much money is spent on state tests. Fifty-nine percent of educators
and 23 percent of parents said students spend too much time getting
ready for classroom tests.

Mr. Chapman said he did not see a contradiction in the fact that
survey respondents favored tests in more areas, but also are
concerned about the time and money spent on tests. "What parents,
teachers, and administrators are all saying is that they really want
instruction-oriented assessments," he said.

Parents said they find little value in state test results if they
have to wait very long to get them. Four in 10, for instance, said
such scores "are no longer useful or relevant" if more than a month
has elapsed since the test.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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